Maine Family Law on Domestic Violence

Each state has domestic violence laws that criminalize violent acts committed between family or household members. Domestic violence is a serious offense and a conviction can greatly impact a parent's child custody and parental rights.

What's Domestic Violence?

In Maine, domestic violence (referred to as "domestic violence assault") occurs when an actor assaults a family or household member. Each state individually defines which relationships constitute a "family or household member," and within Maine only the following relations qualify:

  • Spouses (current or former)
  • Domestic partners (current or former)
  • Individuals presently or formerly living together
  • Natural parents of the same child
  • Adult household members related by blood
  • Minor children living in the same house as the adult offender, or
  • Individuals who are or were sexual partners

The table below outlines Maine's domestic violence law.

Code Section

Maine Revised Statutes 17-A section 207-A: Domestic Violence Assault
What's Prohibited?

Assaulting a family or household member.

What Constitutes an "Assault?"

 

A person is guilty of assault if:
  • The person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury or offensive physical contact to another person, or
  • The person is at least 18 years old and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly, causes bodily injury to another person who is less than 6 years old

Penalties

Domestic violence assault is generally a Class D crime that is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

However, domestic violence assault is a Class C crime and is punishable by up to five years in jail, and/or a fine of up to $5,000 if at the time of the offense the offender has one or more prior convictions for:

  • Domestic violence assault (or conviction(s) for substantially similar conduct)
  • Violating a protective order (or conviction(s) for substantially similar conduct), or
  • Violating bail conditions for an incident where the alleged victim was a family or household member

Domestic Violence and Child Custody

The court makes child custody decisions based on the best interest of the child(ren). There are several factors that the court takes into account when making this determination, including whether or not there have been acts of domestic violence between the parents or between one of the parents and the child. While previous acts of domestic violence don't automatically preclude a parent from being awarded custody of the couple's child, it is a main factor that the court takes into consideration when determining a child's custody arrangement.

Modification or Termination of Parental Rights

In situations involving extreme instances of domestic abuse the court has the power to terminate an abusive parent's parental rights. The court may modify an order for parental rights if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as a newly confirmed act of domestic violence. For example, if a court finds that domestic or family violence has occurred since the last determination of a child's primary residence, then the court can modify or terminate the abusive parent's parental rights.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information regarding Maine's family law on domestic violence contact a local family law attorney or criminal defense lawyer.

If you are a domestic violence survivor there is help available. During an emergency dial 911 and when you're safe contact the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.